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The Power of Advanced Targeting in Personalizing the Online Guest Experience

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November 19, 2021
Michael Goldrich - mgoldrich@thehotelsnetwork.com

The cost of media to attract new visitors to hotel websites increases each year and continues to be a growing part of a hotel’s marketing budget. If the ownership team directs the hotel team to keep its budget flat to the previous year — as media costs rise — the hotel’s traffic will go down. 

Furthermore, a budget increase to match higher media costs year over year will keep the hotel’s traffic relatively level to the previous year, but at a greater cost. The best way to generate more revenue and drive higher ROIs with relatively flat budgets is to focus on what happens when the visitor lands on the hotel’s website. Hotels must convert the traffic that comes to their site at a higher rate to prevent falling behind the previous year’s results and to meet the existing year’s budget forecast.

In addition to the spend on prospecting, hotels are investing in photoshoots and refreshing the copy on their websites. Moreover, SEO teams are optimizing sites so major search engines can correctly index the hotel. If the hotel’s compset is set up properly, its competitors are doing the same thing on their websites. 

These activities (SEO, new copy, better photos) are all part of the cost of doing business. The playing field is relatively level in this respect. Given all the time and investment made to bring visitors to the hotel site, it seems logical that the team would do whatever it could to increase visitor conversion, ensuring it meets revenue production targets and gets ahead of the compset.

Yet, no matter how elaborate a hotel website is in terms of structure, imagery and content, without a personalized user experience, it’s essentially a simple site. It looks the same to all visitors, regardless of whether they’re young or old, male or female, a returning visitor or a new visitor, visiting from TripAdvisor or from a paid campaign, searching for a family or romantic trip, travelling domestically or internationally, staying for a single night or over 30 days.  

A hotel can only make its website proactively intelligent and communicate directly with the guest by leveraging personalizing technology. That’s the way to strongly influence and convert a passive looker to an active booker.

How can a hotel truly personalize its website? You’ll need to find a partner that can facilitate personalization both on the content management systems (CMS) and booking engine. They do this by placing an easy to install script on your website. 

This script allows you to dynamically embed messages anywhere on your site. They can appear as a banner at the top of a page or as a pop-up message. It’s critical that this type of personalized message matches the site’s look  and feel. If the colors and fonts don’t match, it will distract the booker and you could lose the booking. 

It's now possible to combine this target criteria with the visitor's specific personal attributes. You can achieve this higher level of personalization by accessing the website's data layer.

The data layer contains logged-in loyalty program information. You can access it for targeting purposes by triggering messages based on a visitor’s age, gender, interests, loyalty member level and booking history. 

At the most rudimentary level, imagine a single webpage that can provide different, highly personalized offers by displaying an image and copy mirroring the visitor’s gender, age, and interests. This 1:1 messaging is immensely persuasive and powerful in terms of converting lookers into bookers.

Up to this point, personalization reflects what you know about the user based on their online information and where they are on the site. Imagine if you could calculate their likelihood of booking based on what you know about them and the effects of displaying certain offer messaging. 

This next iteration of personalization as advanced targeting leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. When done properly, it vastly improves conversion while driving incremental revenue by targeting offers based on intent. This predictive personalization is the most advanced level to date of targeted personalization.

Machine learning can track more than 100 variables for each user, then predict their behavior based on three factors:

  • Past behavior: What they did before coming to your website.
  • Current behavior: Each action and result they take on your site combined with personal information gleaned from the data layer.
  • External data: Market data, availability and pricing from OTAs and hotel competitors.

The system calculates all these variables to create an algorithm that predicts the visitor’s booking intent score as well as a spend score. This means you can target people who might have a low intent of purchasing a room and make them an offer they can’t refuse. Or you could upsell a high-intent visitor by displaying higher priced rooms. 

Based on industry trends, advanced personalization will soon be just another cost of doing business, along with media prospecting, photoshoots, copy, and SEO. Hotels that want an advantage over their compset should figure out how this technology can help them drive more revenue sooner rather than later.

Leveraging the latest technology and fully embracing personalization can now easily solve your budget dilemma. Increasing website visitor conversion will not only drive more revenue; it will counteract the ever-increasing prospecting costs of attracting new visitors to your site. 

©2021 Hospitality Upgrade
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